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You've written an effective resume, successfully secured and completed at least two interviews, and now you have been extended an offer - by two potential employers. Although not a regular occurrence, it does happen. If making a decision is not clear, there are some things to consider to negotiate and ultimately make a decision.
Make a list of three to five things job characteristics that are important to you. These might include salary, benefits, work schedule, commute time, opportunities for advancement, management responsibilities, and professional development opportunities.
Rate the characteristics in order of importance.
Compare the two offers based on the characteristics identified above. If you don't have information on one of the characteristics, contact the employer to get the information.
Negotiate softly. If an employer's offer for one of the characteristics does not fit your preference, contact them, explain your preference, and ask them to reconsider based on your expectation. If they can't meet your specific expectation, ask them what they can offer and work with them to find a creative solution.
Maintain your negotiation stance. If you think an employer's ultimate response is not appropriate, inform them that you are considering multiple offers, that you are interested in the job they are offering, and that and you would like to make your decision based on your long-term needs and desired job characteristics.
Consider all aspects and make a decision. Verbally inform the employer you are declining with your reasoning for why you are declining the offer. This should be in a conversation, not via voicemail or email. Talking to them creates one last opportunity for them to present a counter offer. If they are not willing to offer one, continue with your decision and notify the other employer of your acceptance.
In a final interview, it is okay to ask if the job characteristics as presented are negotiable. This will give you a better indication of how negotiations will be perceived if the employer makes an offer. Don't count out other characteristics. Even if salary is at the top of your list, consider the other characteristics and their long-term benefit.
Negotiating is risky, but you cannot control the outcome. You have to determine if negotiation is appropriate in some situations. Some employers can be extremely put off if they know you are considering other offers. It's okay to request additional consideration on an item, but it is not always necessary to inform them of other offers.